[HanCinema's Film Review] "Will You Be There" 2017/08/05,
Soo-hyeon (played by Kim Yun-seok) is a surgeon who at first glance has no obvious regrets in life. After all, this is a man who, dying as he is of lung cancer, makes a point of doing charity work in Cambodia. It is from there that memories start activating, and we get a glimpse of the past where the young doctor Soo-hyeon (played by Byun Yo-han) met and loved dolphin trainer Yeon-ah (played by Chae Seo-jin),...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 28 Final 2017/05/04,
The ending to "Saimdang: Light's Diary" is more anticlimactic than anything else. The bad guys are almost immediately brought to justice because one essential character changes sides, and CCTV footage which should have been exposed, I don't know, a dozen episodes ago suddenly pops up out of nowhere and decisively proves that Jeong-hak was a fink all along. Meanwhile, in the past, King Jungjong is sad because it has suddenly occurred to him that persecuting artists is bad,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 27 2017/04/27,
It's more than a little late for me to be figuring this out, but apparently Lee Gyum wasn't a real person either. It's hard to tell whether this makes "Saimdang: Light's Diary" better or worse. On one end, only Saimdang's name has been sullied by the exceptionally goofy plotting of this drama. On the other end, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has spent a preposterous amount of time and effort dedicated to the romantic anguish of a fictional character whose only reason for existence is to have a tragic extramarital love affair with Saimdang,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 26 2017/04/26,
So it turns out Jeong-hak's thievery of Saimdang's Kumgang Mountain painting is easily detectable by anyone with proper training in classical art. This isn't exactly a surprise, considering that Sang-hyeon identified the errors in Jeong-hak's fake way back in the first episode and it was mainly hubris that prevented Jeong-hak from realizing the error himself. At the time, I was expecting the central conflict would be over Jeong-hak stubbornly refusing to acknowledge Sang-hyeon's argument even as Ji-yoon discovered the genuine painting,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 25 2017/04/20,
It's back to the framing device as Ji-yoon...pretty much gives up on any hope of recovering the painting and just goes on a road trip with her son. This road trip is rather geographically challenged. Ji-yoon's father lives in Pyeongtaek, yet the first place they end up going is Chuncheon, which is practically on the opposite side of the country. All while Ji-yoon is holding down a teaching job apparently,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 24 2017/04/19,
Try as I might it's surprisingly difficult to parse the motives of any of the antagonists in "Saimdang: Light's Diary". This is especially awkward since the drama is now at the climax and everyone's getting their comeuppance/unjust victory. Headmistress Choi is jealous. It's dumb but it makes sense. Everyone else? Chi-hyeon is evil for the sake of being evil. Won-soo hates his wife and apparently his children too. King Jungjong is...I don't know, suddenly not appreciative of art any more?,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 22 2017/04/06,
The central conflict this time around deals with sexism against women in Joseon. On its face this entire idea is a little odd, considering that Saimdang herself was a famous artist who was appreciated in her time. What's more, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has consistently had unnamed characters react to Saimdang's gender with a sense of novelty, rather than revulsion. So for people to suddenly have a hissy fit about Saimdang going beyond her station marks a rather serious break with continuity,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 20 2017/03/30,
It occurred to me near the episode that, in addition to her reputation as an artist, Saimdang is also well-known for embodying Confucian standards of feminity. Which is to say, she was a dutiful wife and an attentive mother. In their increasingly bizarre effort to make Saimdang seem heroic for doings things the real Saimdang almost certainly did not do, the production team behind "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has managed to achieve negative knowledge. A person who doesn't know any better will come away from this drama knowing less about Saimdang than when they started,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 19 2017/03/29,
Apparently the production team has realized that they've made Won-soo too sympathetic, ruining what little chemistry Saimdang and Lee Gyum have. So naturally, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" fixes this by...having Won-soo start an affair with a daft idiot. You know, the real-life Won-soo knew he was marrying an unusually intelligent and well-educated woman. Given the standards of the time this could potentially make Won-soo an interesting character in his own right. Instead he's just a sitcom buffoon,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 18 2017/03/23,
Initially I was wondering whether I had somehow missed an episode of "Saimdang: Light's Diary". The last thing we saw was the grand art heist, and the recap reminds us about the big fire so...why are we starting out with Internet searches, familial awkwardness and comic relief about clothes? Then we get back to the art heist and it really doesn't help the drama's credibility when even the police officer in-story thinks it sounds improbable,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 17 2017/03/22,
Director Yoon Sang-ho can throw all the pretty lighting and musical cues at Lee Gyum and Saimdang as he wants. But at the end of the day, a single look of genuine meaningful concern from Won-soo about Saimdang's safety has a lot more impact than anything Lee Gyum has done over the entire course of the drama. I really like Yoon Da-hoon. He's pretty much the only actor in "Saimdang: Light's Diary" who consistently comes off as believable and sympathetic, although it does help that his character is written somewhat realistically,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 16 2017/03/16,
While the last episode closed with Ji-yoon promising sweet, sweet revenge against Jeong-hak for all the suffering he's put her though, the framing device this episode is pretty subdued. That's a bit of an odd way to put it, considering the highlight is a nun rocking out with her guitar but no, really, all that happens is that Ji-yoon and friends manage to smuggle the art out of the nightclub without Jeong-hak getting a clear idea of what exactlyáit is they're doing. I don't know either, really, but whatever, that part was cute at least,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 15 2017/03/15,
As Saimdang sets off on her quest to find a plot device, Lee Gyum finds himself in the thick of the conspiracy. King Jungjong's family history is discussed in greater detail. Then the enforcers of the conspiracy catch up with Saimdang and they are only saved by the chance intervention of some guy who apparently has a past relationship with the street urchins. Then we're treated to a group of other tangentially related characters fussing about clothes in a lighthearted way,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 14 2017/03/09,
One of the factors that really accentuates the sheer badness of "Saimdang: Light's Diary" is that every so often, there is that actually genuinely good emotional scene that makes you wish the whole drama could be like that. Here, that scene is Saimdang's calm, sad, and poignant letter to her husband, asking him to take responsibility for the children while she goes off to deal with an important task. It reads like the kind of thing the real Saimdang might have written, as part of a very mature adult relationship with her spouse,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 13 2017/03/08,
Well the preview was a lie- for the fifth straight episode there's no framing device or context for "Saimdang: Light's Diary", although the story arcs are rather neatly bisected into two distinct portions. First, Lee Gyum goes on an expedition with King Jungjong which is allegedly about exotic artwork but practically seems to be more about Dick Cheney inspired hunting expeditions. Second, Saimdang is drawn into a tussle at the Joseon Parent Teacher Association because her son got into a fight,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 12 2017/03/02,
Lee Gyum's investigation into the drama's backstory continues. It's a little impressive, after a certain point, how everything about this conspiracy keeps leading back to Saimdang somehow. Meanwhile, Saimdang herself is just left pondering the next steps of her colored paper empire while Lee Gyum charges forward heedlessly, ignorant of the danger to himself or his horses, to inform Saimdang that their initial separation was the result of malicious forces rather than a random quirk of fate. Swordfights are involved,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 11 2017/03/01,
Incredible though this must sound apparently the saga of the colored paper manufacturing scheme still isn't done yet. In fact, it's actually the foundation for an international political conspiracy that ties into every ridiculous plot point "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has come up with so far. Yes, that's right, all the fires, the fight scenes, the frivolous arrests, Headmistress Choi's petty grudge against Saimdang, even Headmistress Choi's title all tie into this conspiracy somehow,...More
[Hancinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 10 2017/02/23,
The entirity of the plot this episode rests on a scam designed by Headmistress Choi to humiliate Saimdang. But the plucky Saimdang, to her credit, is able to enlist the help of a large gang of pathetic street bums to complete the supposedly impossible task. It also helps that Lee Gyum, bless his heart, is able to secretly help Saimdang in the night, like those little elves in fairy tales that help good-hearted souls through the difficult privations of life,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 9 2017/02/22,
At this point "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has clearly decided that it wants to be a drama about Saimdang trying to find the best way to usher her son into eventual success. In any other drama this would at best be a third tier plot, so director Yoon Sang-ho livens up the proceedings by playing epic organ music while Saimdang's archnemesis Headmistress Choi tortures people. And no, this doesn't look any less goofy in execution than it does written down,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 8 2017/02/16,
The two main genres at the forefront this episode are soap opera and parent teacher association meetings. I have to admit that the latter concept is rather...unique, in that I never in a million years expected that I would be reviewing a historical Korean drama that focused on parents talking to other parents and teachers about their children's academic performance. In context, though, it's more of the usual disappointments since Saimdang herself has, as usual, only an indirect role,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 7 2017/02/15,
Near the end of this episode, there's a brief, lovely little scene where Saimdang takes her family out to nature and uses her powers of artistic description to help them understand natural beauty. This scene is noteworthy for how horribly out of place it is. In between Lee Gyum's detective work, Saimdang's domestic problems, and greater political struggles, there's precious little time spent actually discussing art and poetry. Which is pretty jarring considering that the whole reason Saimdang is famous is because she's an artist and a poet,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 6 2017/02/09,
Dramatic romantic opening notwithstanding, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" continues with its dual stories. Lee Gyum tries to accomplish stuff at the governmental level, while Saimdang tries to maintain a basic standard of living at her home. Ah, this is...you know, one of the criticisms of putting Saimdang on Korean currency is that her role in Korean history has not been a terribly proactive one. I'm kind of baffled as to why "Saimdang: Light's Diary" is choosing to highlight this,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 5 2017/02/08,
Lee Gyum and Saimdang have tragically separated, off to live their own lives. That is, until the cliffhanger, when by fate they finally happen to meet again...and you know, that's the main issue I have with "Saimdang: Light's Diary". Considering that the framing device is literally academic research, one would think this drama would be more interested in the historical record. But no, rather than get exposition of Saimdang's life and accomplishments, we have to watch her suffer for not being with her one true love,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 4 2017/02/02,
We get to watch Saimdang and Lee Gyum's love story implode rather fantastically for the majority of this episode. In general I don't mind the whole tragic doomed love cliché, but here it comes off as rather weak. More than ever I find myself wondering which of these events are based on actual historical record and which are sheer dramatic embellishment. If Saimdang actually married another guy because her parents were making a socio-political decision, I would have much rather seen that,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 3 2017/02/01,
An extended flashback sums up the general mess of Ji-yoon's current situation, and why it has led to her having gazebo chats with Sang-hyeon (played by Yang Se-jong). Incidentally, Yang Se-jong also plays the young Lee Gyum in flashback, and once the recap is over with we are once again treated to the generally adorable romance between Lee Gyum and Saimdang. Oddly enough this storyline is no less sweet simply because we know it can't possibly end well,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 2 2017/01/26,
We start out with brief, generally boring academic politics. Thankfully "Saimdang: Light's Diary" quickly gives up on this exposition and it's right to what we're all waiting for- the introduction of Saimdang (played by Park Hye-soo). Of course, for now she's still just a kid. Saimdang is spunky, what with trying to climb walls, but the young woman is smarter than she looks. Saimdang has a keen eye for the arts that soon gets cultivated as she spends time with Lee Gyum,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 1 2017/01/26,
Long ago, the famed painter Lee Gyum (played by Song Seung-heon) was in Renaissance-era Italy. What exactly he was doing there is not yet entirely clear. Art professor Ji-yoon (played by Lee Young-ae) aims to find out, although the road there is a tad circuitous. Ji-yoon is trapped between a bad professional situation and a swiftly degrading household. Neither are her fault. Ji-yoon just had the bad luck of getting involved with unscrupulous men,...More
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